An Evangelical Climate Scientist Wonders What Went Wrong
By David Marchese
New York Times
December 29, 2021
Such is the grimly politicized state of science these days that the descriptors typically used to explain who Katharine Hayhoe is — evangelical Christian; climate scientist — can register as somehow paradoxical. Despite that (or, indeed, because of it), Hayhoe, who is 49 and whose most recent book is “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World,” has become a sought-after voice for climate activism and a leading advocate for communicating across ideological, political and theological differences. “For many people now, hope is a bad word,” says Hayhoe, the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy as well as a professor of political science at Texas Tech. “They think that hope is false hope; it is wishful thinking. But there are things to do — and we should be doing them.”
Where, if any, are there areas where you see a conflict between scientific consensus and your religious beliefs?
The biggest struggle I have is that in the Bible, Jesus says to his disciples, “You should be recognized as my disciples by your love for others,” and today when you look at people who self-identify as Christians in the United States, love for others is not one of the top characteristics you see. Christianity is much more closely linked with political ideology and identity, with judgmentalism, partisanship, science denial, rejection of responsibility for the poorest and most vulnerable who we, as Christians, are to care for. You know, there was a really interesting recent article about the landscape of evangelicalism in the United States, and it said that about 10 years ago if you asked people, “Do you consider yourself to be evangelical?” and they said yes, and then you asked, “Do you go to church?” about 30 percent would say no. But nowadays something like 40 percent of people who self-identify as evangelicals don’t go to church. They go to the church of Facebook or Fox News or whatever media outlet they get their information from. So their statement of faith is written primarily by political ideology and only a distant second by theology.